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The End of Secrecy? Military Competitiveness in the Age of Transparency

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Information and communications technologies are having a profound impact, both domestically and globally, on how future war is waged. These technologies are providing affordable, worldwide, near real-time, 24-hour, CNN-like news coverage, worldwide Internet access, and more importantly, access to commercial space systems, including remote sensing, communications and navigation. Unfortunately, this explosion in worldwide information and communication systems creates vulnerabilities for U.S. national security. One such vulnerability is information transparency. Transparency is the result of the worldwide explosion in quantity and quality of information available to the general user, the accessibility to the information, and the affordability in acquiring any data product desired. The resultant electronic information symmetry makes the world transparent, where any one can keep tabs on the actions of everyone else. This study investigates how the U.S. can retain its military advantage in the coming age of transparency. The inevitable economic pressure of the web, or more generally information e-commerce, is advancing the rate of global transparency. Relying only on the National Command Authority to continue with its approach of controlling information release to the public is doomed. Transparency can seriously degrade several principles of war, most significantly mass, maneuver, and surprise. For example, it will provide an adversary near-real time, accurate battle-space visibility of U.S. military posture at both the strategic and theater levels. As such, an adversary could preemptively deny forward basing by destroying air bases or sea ports, use his own long range precision strike weapons against pre-selected U.S. targets, and selectively deny U.S.-developed space based navigation to counter surprise attacks.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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